Angwin: How will New England handle loss of 5000 MW of reliable power plants?

This commentary is by Meredith Angwin, a retired physical chemist and a member of the ISO-NE consumer advisory group. She is the author of “Shorting the Grid.”

Looking back at winter oil

In the deeply cold weather of 2017/2018, oil saved the grid. Gas-fired power plants could not always get fuel. (I described this situation at the beginning of my book, Shorting the Grid: The Hidden Fragility of Our Electric Grid.)

Meredith Angwin

Meredith Angwin

Some gas-fired power plants were able to burn oil, and they did. The oil they burned saved the grid, and it was part of ISO-NE “Winter Reliability Program.” which assured an oil supply to power plants that could burn oil or natural gas (dual-fuel power plants). Our grid was operating on 30% oil for about a week.

The Winter Reliability Program was subsequently scrapped by FERC as being “out of market” and not “fuel neutral.” However, it kept the lights on in New England.

I have argued that we need such a program again, whatever FERC thinks of it. I have the sad history of the Winter Reliability Program in an earlier blog post.

Looking forward to winter oil

Time to look forward to the coming winter. In February of this year, I spoke at a forum of the energy committees of the Connecticut Legislature. (New England Was Barely Ready for Winter.) The next speaker at the forum was Gordon van Welie, the CEO of ISO- NE, our grid operator. Van Welie said that a Winter Reliability Project would not be effective this coming winter.

I could think of several reasons that such a project would not be effective. For one thing, several large base-load plants have shut down, and so oil would have to supply even more electricity in order to keep the lights on. The graphic at the head of this blog post is from a recent ISO-NE presentation. It shows that more than 5000 MW of reliable plants have closed in New England since 2013. Meanwhile, 3000 MW of dual-fuel plants have been added. But can the dual-fired plants get fuel without a Winter Reliability Program? Or is this just more dependency on Just-In-Time natural gas?

To put this in context, our New England grid runs as low as 10,000 MW at night and has rare peaks of about 23,000 MW. (In contrast, ERCOT of Texas is expecting today’s peak to be over 70,000 MW.) Shuttering 5000 MW of reliable power has affected a major part of our power supply.

Facts and figures for this winter

The figure at the head of this post  is slide 3 from an ISO-NE presentation in July that described the choices for the coming winter.  In this presentation, ISO-NE described their choices and attempted to justify their plan to NOT implement a Winter Reliability Program. I have reviewed the ISO-NE presentation carefully and attempted to understand the potential choices.

To read full post, click here.

Images courtesy of Public domain and Meredith Angwin

6 thoughts on “Angwin: How will New England handle loss of 5000 MW of reliable power plants?

  1. Meredith,

    Peak Demand During Wind/Solar Lulls

    Peak demand is the highest amount of electricity used in a single hour, and the ISO-NE, the grid operator, must ensure the NE has sufficient power resources to meet the peak.

    The chart below shows the days with the highest peak demand recorded in New England since the ISO-NE began managing the power grid in 1997.

    Peak demands on winter days are about 5000 MW less than on summer days
    Peak demands on winter weekends are about 3000 MW less than on summer weekends 

    Summer peak demands occur during late-afternoon/early-evening, when solar has become minimal, and winds typically are minimal, according the ISO-NE minute-by minute electricity production data from all sources.

    That means, wind/solar is minimal during peak demand hours.

    That means almost the entire peak demand has to be provided by other sources, such as electricity from:
    1) Tree burning, mostly in Maine, at an efficiency of 25%, i.e., the energy equivalent of 3 out of 4 trees is wasted
    2) NE hydro
    3) Minor miscellaneous NE sources
    4) Imported from nearby grids

    Theoretically, these four sources would provide 50% of the annual electricity loaded onto the NE grid, with wind/solar providing the other 50%, at some future date.

    However, averages are deceptive.

    These four sources, during a summer peak demand of 27,500 MW; see image, and an almost daily wind/solar lull during late-afternoon/early-evening, would provide electricity at a rate of about 27,500 MW x 8766 h/y = 241 TWh/y, which is 241/125 = 1.92 greater than the average daily generation loaded onto the NE grid. 

    NOTE: The imported electricity MAY NOT BE AVAILABLE to New England, because it may be needed by their own grids, as California found out during heat wave, when nearby states sent no electricity to California. 

    The big question is, what part of the peak demand, MW and MWh, would be served by the grid-scale battery systems?

  2. It’s time to remove your consent by not playing anymore..

    Get debt free and leave what they are doing.. Being free is not owing anyone a dime and then you are truly able to pick and choose what scam you want to participate in.

  3. It’s a mystery to me why the climate cultists in Montpelier keep on believing that electricity is always standing ready on the other side of the wall plug – instead of listening to one of New England’s leading energy analysts, Meredith Angwin.

  4. With this new Green Bill they’re passing there will be billions of good paying green jobs powering everything.We probably should consider closing the remaining plants too.

  5. I’m confused. Winter…cold…snow…huge losses in power generation? But where is “Global Warming”? Is it Exxon’s fault, that we will be COLD again? Isn’t it always Exxon’s fault?. I know where to fiimd MY REAL answers! The New York Times…they are as blinded & as wrong, as can be. How dumb and blind…or low IQ…are those in VT that buy this cult/religion baloney. Read NYT climate change:

    “In 1995 the New York Times reported that in 25 years the beaches on the US East Coast would no longer be visible – they would be underwater due to global warming. Today evidence again proves The New York Times and climate change radicals were wrong. On Monday, September 18, 1995, the New York Times wrote an article that claimed:

    “This, say the scientists, would inundate parts of many heavily populated river deltas and the cities on them, making them uninhabitable, and would destroy many beaches around the world. At the most likely rate of rise, some experts say, most of the beaches on the East Coast of the United States would be gone in 25 years. They are already disappearing at an average of 2 to 3 feet a year.”

  6. I am looking forward to a period of cold weather with not enough gas and oil to generate the required electricity. Blackouts anyone?

    During cold weather, winds are minimal, so no rescue from that
    Solar is a tepid midday affair during winter, so no rescue from that.

    Germany, RE maven, is facing exactly such a scenario
    Germany is restarting coal plants
    Germany has kept 3 nuclear plants in service instead of prematurely shutting them down
    Gas is turned on a few hours per day in high-rise apartment buildings in summer.
    What will that be like in winter, with gas reservoirs not enough full?

    The Greens, including a Swedish girl, are going crazy, because they have no answers, other than “leave it in the ground”.

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